The threat of litigation sparked the passage of the Rooney Rule nearly 20 years ago. The actuality of it has prompted calls to get rid of it.
Multiple civil rights leaders met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday. After the meeting, they issued a statement calling for the scrapping of the Rooney Rule.
Meeting with Goodell were National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial, National Action Network Founder and President Rev. Al Sharpton, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, and National African American Clergy Network co-convener Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner. They requested the meeting in the aftermath of the lawsuit filed last Tuesday by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores.
“However well-intentioned, the effect of the Rooney Rule has been for team decision-makers to regard interviews with candidates of color as an extraneous step, rather than an integral part of the hiring process,” Morial said. “The gravity of the situation is long past the crisis point.”
The argument is that the Rooney Rule has become an exercise in form over substance.
“The Rooney Rule has been proven to be something the owners used to deceptively appear to be seeking real diversity,” Sharpton said. “We must have firm targets and timetables.”
Sharpton said that the National Action Network has begun an effort to pressure the league through sponsors, local governments that fund stadiums, and Congress — which can hold hearings on the issue — in an effort to improve a system that NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent has publicly called “broken.”
The press release also included a call for involvement by the civil rights and racial justice community in reviewing the current situation and repairing it.
“It’s simply not enough for the League to declare its good intentions,” Johnson said. “This is a longstanding crisis that must be confronted with diligence and rigor.”
“While the NFL has begun making strides with regard to social justice and racial equity, it’s clear that voices of color are not being entirely heard in the executive suites,” Sharpton said. “Good intentions are not enough.”
The NFL issued the following comment regarding the meeting to the Associated Press: “The leaders said they welcomed Goodell’s previous announcement of an independent review of the NFL’s diversity, equity and inclusion policies and initiatives.”
They may have done that, but they clearly want more. Ultimately, the target shouldn’t be Goodell but the folks for whom he routinely runs interference, in exchange for $65 million per year. The oligarchs behind the curtain are the ones who need to change their ways. For some of these folks — who are very used to getting what they want, when they want, how they want it — the application of pressure to get them to do something they don’t want to do may be enough to get them to push back, simply because they resent being pushed.
That’s why we’ve argued that the single-owner system has become the real cause of the problem. A corporate structure, featuring a diverse and inclusive board of directors and layers and levels of checks and balances and committees and accountability would work better than having an emperor with full and total and continuous and unquestioned power over a team. While corporations definitely aren’t above making illegal employment decisions, the approach would work far better than a collection of grown-up Veruca Salts who refuse to listen to reason, if for no reason other than they want everyone to know that they have earned (or inherited) the right not to.